South High School’s Andy’s Attic

By Edith Morgan

Come with me and take a most remarkable trip, into a huge storeroom, with what seem to me to be 15-foot high ceilings, lined with metal shelves from cement-block wall to wall – and every row filled with “gently-used” clothing of every kind. As I enter, to my right stands a giving tree, festooned with pictures of students who have put in at least 20 hours already, and whose continued work will earn them a star for every ten hours more, s they fulfill their community service duties.

The room is alive with busy students, filling “orders” from families who have sent in requests. Other students are folding, sorting newly arrived donations, straightening shelves or drawers full of new items (the socks and underwear are new, as most people really prefer to wear such items new), The students come willingly and on time, and when asked why they participate in “Andy’s Attic, they all told me how heartwarming it was to know that they are helping truly needy families to be properly and warmly clothed – some even had been recipients themselves, and now were “paying it forward”, so someone else could feel what they had felt when someone cared enough to help them.

Since October 2013, 190 bags full of complete outfits in the right sizes have already been sent out, and every day about 36 students show up to help.

Why the name ”Andy’s Attic”? The idea grew out of the tragic death of a 16-year old Shrewsbury student, Andrew Reese, whose parents and friends wanted to honor his memory. When the project outgrew its Shrewsbury quarters, after a couple of moves, Shrewsbury resident and South High teacher Christine Foley approached her Principal, Maureen Binienda, who provided the large basement room that used to be her supply closet. After a huge clean-up job and truckloads of moving, the “attic” was ready.

At first, South High students received the donations – many were needy themselves, but as the project grew, Christine and her volunteers found that behind every student in need was a family in need. And soon word spread, with “orders” coming in from other towns in Worcester County.

In the summer of 2013 the Reese family moved to Florida, and Christine Foley took over the project. She enlisted the help of several major Worcester organizations and got the project under way. Staff and students worked to get it started, and what I saw today would be the envy of any large business, with students performing the many tasks required to run such a great enterprise. We should all be very proud of the students who week after week see to it that Andy’s Attic takes care of those who are in need.

If any readers want to help, Andy’s Attic always needs: new socks and underwear, and “gently used” clothing of all sizes. Sometimes a special request has to go out for sizes not in stock, so Andy’s Attic can always use cash to purchase what is needed.

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